The Maryland Senior Olympics (MSO) was created in early 1980 through joint efforts of the Baltimore County and Maryland State Commissions on Physical Fitness. Through the state commission, and under the leadership of Dr. Robert Zeigler, vice chairman of the Baltimore County Physical Fitness Commission and professor of physical education at Towson State University, the first competition was held on Oct. 4, 1980, at Towson State with approximately 300 athletes for a one-day event.
The success of early state programs such as Maryland’s led to the creation of the biennial National Senior Games in 1985. The National Senior Games are competitions for winners of local and regional senior games and has grown tremendously since its beginnings. Learn more about the National Senior Games Association at www.nsga.com.
As the national games grew, the local and state games became even stronger. With an amazing joint effort of local and state commissions, plus a wide band of loyal volunteers, Maryland became a leader in the field of program development for seniors. The state has sent several thousand champions to participate in the National Games with Maryland producing numerous national championship teams and individuals through the years.
Today, around 1,500 athletes compete in the Maryland Senior Olympics. Events are held for men and women in approximately two dozen sports and almost 100 events. Age-group competitions are conducted for mature adults from age 50 into their 80s and above. But as Dr. Zeigler liked to say, the Maryland Senior Olympics strives to provide opportunities for everyone, not just the gifted athlete. Our logo statement, “To Participate Is to Win,” was chosen carefully to symbolize our purpose and commitment to all senior athletes in Maryland.
While the object of any competition is to win, the underlying premise of the Senior Games is to encourage participation within a spirit of goodwill and camaraderie—win or lose. This is not to say that winning is unimportant; however, to train, set goals and strive toward them as an active participant gives greater meaning than medals to the true significance of the Senior Games. The competition also attempts to challenge the elite athlete. It is imperative the Maryland Senior Olympics serve all athletes with a variety of offerings to meet every competitive appetite.
Upon the retirement of long-time leaders Dr. Zeigler, Bob Eickenberg, and Phil Adams in the mid-2000s, the Maryland Games needed a new home. An arrangement was made with Salisbury State, hosts of the Eastern Shore Senior Games, to also host the 2006 state competition. Participation was poor with many athletes citing the driving distance.
In late 2007, Montgomery County agreed to become administrator of the Maryland Senior Olympics, a passing of the baton from one great era to a new one. Ted Wroth, retired from Montgomery County Recreation, became the new executive director, galvanizing the organization with outreach throughout the state and developing close bonds with the National Senior Games Association. Maryland became a strong voice on the national level.
In late 2012, MSO partnered with Baltimore City Recreation and Parks, moving the Games closer to its origins.
MSO returned to Montgomery County in 2015, where it remains today, and added events in Prince George’s and Frederick counties.
Last year at the 2017 National Senior Games in Birmingham, Alabama, our own Dr. Robert Ziegler was recognized as one of thirty Champions of the Games, chosen for his outstanding contributions to create, promote and help grow The Senior Games Movement. The thirty Champions were selected as part of the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the National Senior Games. Learn more about the award and what qualified Dr. Ziegler to be selected at 30 Champions of the Games